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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Equalizer: Effective Practice Planning

Practice Planning: Why and How

We all have roughly the same amount of time and what we do with that time is what separates the best coaches from the average coaches. Time is an equalizer.

There are many considerations for how and why to plan practice. Each coach has generally the same amount of practice time whether you are in the professional ranks, college level, or high school. What separates the best coaches from the mediocre is what they do with those two hours of practice time. Organization and planning can make any practice more efficient and effective. Below are some considerations for coaches:

1. The most important – the length of practice – which should be determined by the time of season

2. Space available: one full court, 6 goals vs. 4 goals

3. Time available. How long do you have the facility?

4. Number of players to work with – 18-20 players requires different approaches than working
with a squad of 10-12

5. Number of returning players. Large number, you can allow less time for explaining drill procedures, rotation of drills, etc.

6. The school year schedule: holidays, concerts, and other functions that will take the gym. Considering these things in your master plan or weekly plan will help ensure getting what you need in on other days, or planning a day off.

7. When we think of conditioning, we consider both physical and mental. Through the year, we plan for and extemporaneously use tapes, records, talks by our staff, selected articles, and poems etc. to facilitate making the players more coachable.

8. We always try to begin our practices with flexibility and warm-up drills, and close with competition and fun.

9. One of the laws of learning is repetition. We believe in giving small doses and repeating frequently. Maximum effort for short periods of time.

10. We believe in small group or station teaching.

11. The most important considerations we can give to devising our practice plan is the organization of a drill so that the players are not standing in line for long periods of time.

12. Plan water breaks.

13. We try to make sure that all of our drills are applicable to our offensive and defensive systems and simulate game conditions. Don’t drill just to drill.

14. We believe in using drills that incorporate all or most of the fundamentals every day. The players know this.

15. We try to introduce new drills, or plays in the early part of practice. Most players learn better when they are fresh and not tired.

16. When presenting a new team system, we present the whole on the floor first, then work on the breakdown next, and present the whole on the chalkboard, before implementing the whole again on the floor.

17. Most importantly, record and file every practice for later evaluation.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cinderella Madness

During March, every hoop fan hopes to witness at least one Cinderella game. In other words, an upset. From UNLV (1990) to Princeton (1996) to George Mason (2006), each low-seeded team had something special to come up with. This year, if you did not watch a lot of NCAA, you would say Butler was one Cinderella-team; I won’t agree, but I won’t argue either. If you watched the Northern Iowa VS. Kansas game, now we can talk. Actually, I think we can qualify the 9th seed-UNI the Cinderella team of the Tournament, upsetting no.1 Kansas 69-67.

That game was a big one, but I was anxious to watch the game after [the upset], to see if The Panthers were for real. When I saw that MSU was advancing, I thought: Wow, I can’t wait to watch that game over and over. Two of the most set-plays oriented teams of the Tournament were going head to head in the Sweet 16! Hoping for a close game, I got what I needed: great execution from both teams, solid man-to-man defense and, thanks to Tom Izzo, good rebounding!

Running a lot of box sets, The Panthers got a lot of quality looks to the basket. Often in that contest N.-Iowa tried to take advantage of their shooting bigs. Coming out of pick-and-pops or creating their own shots, Panthers’ forwards/centers found the bottom of the net from 15 or more many times. Contributing to almost half of their team points, the Purple-jersey guards ran the floor brightly (scoring 12 points off MSU’s turnovers), while being able to get to the line also. However, the rebounding battle was amazing. Winning the war 32 to 26, The Spartans scored 6 of their 59 points off 2nd chance opportunities. Surprisingly, Northern Iowa got the same score at 2nd chance points. You know what they say, there are a lot of bad first shots, but there aren’t a lot of bad second shots...

For the green and white jerseys, playing without Kalin Lucas could’ve been a hard task, but Spartans’ Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers managed to put 29 points on the score board, each of them grabbing over 6 rebounds. As I expected, Izzo came up with his sharply-executed set-plays, the same ones (or almost) he was running 10 years ago in the Championship Game against Florida.

Finally, I truly wish that the Northern Iowa program keeps progressing under Coach Jacobson.
Get MSU plays over here :
Tennessee VS MSU play :
Butler VS MSU Final Four play :
Coach Morrow

Traits of Successful Coaches

This list was developed by Patrick Hunt, the coaching education director for the Australian Institute of Sport. I have read some of Coach Hunt's material in the past and thought it was excellent.

Great technical knowledge – understand the intricacies and dynamics of their sport which allows them to effectively train and teach players

Good communicators – like being around people, honest and open with their communication

Care for players – genuine care and investment in developing players to achieve their potential. The old saying “players don’t care what you know until they know that you care”

No Bad attitude policy – have clear criteria about the type of people they allow into their team. Value good culture too much to let “bad eggs” infiltrate their system

Recruit players who want to learn – successful coaches are always striving to improve, both themselves and their players. Players must be willing to learn and commit to improvement

Eye for detail – believe in the “power of small”. The smallest detail can sometimes have the biggest impact in the long run.

Seek opinions – secure enough to be challenged and seek opinions from others. Open-minded to innovation and change.

Understand the “why” of their game plan – good coaches don’t just copy another system or game plan. They understand the reason why they use a particular game plan and all the little things that go into executing it. This ties into traits 1 and 6.

Coach with enthusiasm and passion – this approach rubs off on players and makes them enthusiastic about the task of learning and improving

Life-long learners
– always looking for better ways, new information. Seek out other coaches. Study other sports for training and playing methods

"One who gives less than what he has to give is telling you what he thinks about both you and him. " (Pete Carrill former Head Basketball Coach at Princeton University)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010



In order to be at my best this pre-season, I need to rest the month of August. My blog will be back, better than ever, after Labor Day.

With that said, I am not the only one who needs to rest. Most players have been going just as hard as I have with individual workouts, AAU tournaments, summer league games, and elite camps. I know of several players who haven't slept in their bed at home for more than a dozen times the entire summer!

With such a rigorous schedule, your body is banged up, fatigued, and broken down. You need to get in some quality active rest between now and when school starts. Honestly, scheduling an adequate period of active rest may be the most important thing you do all summer.

You need to get away from the game, mentally and physically, to re-charge your battery and be refreshed and ready to start the school year and your team’s pre-season workouts.

I recommend you take anywhere from a few days, to two full weeks, and do nothing physically active except for the 5 recovery exercises listed below. You need to evaluate your current state. If your summer wasn’t too exhausting, then take a few days off. If your summer was packed tighter than an airplane bathroom… then you should probably take an entire week or two off.

And when I say “off”… I mean off. That means no lifting, no conditioning, no shooting, no ball handling and no pick-up games. Trust me, it will do you good.

Perform the following exercises every day during your active rest period:

Lacrosse Ball Foot Massage

Why it’s important: Basketball players’ feet are constantly confined to rigid, stiff basketball shoes and ankle braces 20-25 hours a week. If your feet are constantly in basketball shoes, your ankles and feet get weaker and less mobile. Performing a “self massage” on a lacrosse ball helps loosen up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your feet.

How it’s done: In just your socks, balance on one foot and roll your other foot on top of the lacrosse ball. The more weight you put on the ball, the more pressure and the deeper the massage.

How many reps: Do two sets of 30 seconds for each foot.

Foam Roller

Why it’s important: It has a similar premise to the lacrosse ball. It’s a self-massage that helps elongate your muscles and rid your body of lactic acid and “knots.”

How it’s done: Start with your lower calf. Roll back and forth on top of the foam roller as if you were kneading dough. Follow the same protocol for your hamstrings, butt, outside of your hip, lower back, upper back, and your shoulder.

How many reps: Roll over each body part for 30 seconds.

Variation: You can substitute the foam roller with an over-inflated basketball.

Lunge and Reach Stretch

Why it’s important: Great stretch for the entire body!

How it’s done: Step out as far as you can into a forward lunge. Keep your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders facing forward. Put your palms on the floor in front of you (inside of your front leg). Straighten you back leg. If your left leg is forward, keep your right palm on the ground and raise your left palm toward the ceiling (by rotating your core). Look up as you reach up. Then perform the same movement with your other hand (left leg forward, raise your right hand). Then switch legs and repeat.

How many reps: Perform 5 reps for each hand on each leg.

Assisted Hamstring Stretch

Why it’s important: Tight hamstrings can cause numerous problems.

How it’s done: Lay on your back with both legs flat. Wrap a towel or elastic band or jump rope around the middle part of one foot. Keeping both legs straight (one stays on the ground), slowly pull your foot towards your nose. Make sure your ankle stays dorsi-flexed (“toes to your nose”). Hold for 15 seconds. Then, keeping your torso and hips flat on the ground, drop your leg laterally (if you are stretching your left leg, drop your leg down to the left). For a more intense stretch, continue to pull your foot towards the top of your head. This is a great groin stretch. Hold for 15 seconds. Lastly, cross over and drop your leg to the opposite side. For a more intense stretch, continue to pull your foot towards the top of your head. This will give a stretch to your low back and IT band. Hold for 15 seconds.

How many reps: Perform 3 rounds of all 3 phases (straight, lateral, crossover… each round takes 45 seconds).

Bodyweight Hangs

Why it’s important: Helps decompress your spine.

How it’s done: Find a sturdy pull-up bar that is high enough that you can hang from it without your feet touching the ground. Then simply grab the bar and hang. Let every muscle relax and let gravity decompress your spine.

How many reps: Hang for 3 sets of 15 seconds.

If you need additional info, or a visual on how to perform these exercises, please check out the initial episodes of the Can He Dunk? Project at We performed these movements with the participants before every workout.

We will post a new episode each week for the next 3 weeks… so make sure you stay tuned to see who ends up dunking!

In addition to the Can He Dunk? videos, I just posted the remaining two videos from the Nike Basketball Skills Academies. These will be my last two YouTube videos of the summer (videos will return after Labor Day, along with the blog).

Kevin Durant Nike Basketball Skills Academy:

Amar’e Stoudemire Nike Basketball Skills Academy:

Please enjoy your last few weeks of August and get the rest you deserve.

But then get back to work. Your pre-season workouts will lay the foundation for your season.

We will be offering a very comprehensive 8 Week Pre-Season Strength & Conditioning Program download at in early September. It will include everything you need to get stronger, more explosive, and in great basketball shape.

Remember… the best players and the best teams are in the best shape!

In the meantime, please let me know if I can be a resource to you for your program. You can email me at

Basketball Coaches Club

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